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The First African American to vote on March 31, 1870

PERTH AMBOY, NEW JERSEY - The City of Perth Amboy celebrated the 153rd Thomas Mundy Peterson Day on March 31, 2023, with Mayor Helmin J. Caba and the descendants of Thomas Mundy Peterson. The event was a tribute to the legacy of Thomas Mundy Peterson, the first African American to vote in the United States, who made history in Perth Amboy on March 31, 1870.

The event started with a mesmerizing hand and drum ensemble by Victor Marshall, setting the mood for the rest of the program. John Dyke, the City Historian presented a historical video on the significance of the day and how it has impacted the community over the years. The video showcased the contributions of Thomas Mundy Peterson to the civil rights movement and his role in shaping the history of Perth Amboy.

Distinguished guests graced the occasion with their remarks, including state officials from District 19, community leaders, and descendants of Thomas Mundy Peterson. The speakers highlighted the importance of the day in promoting equal rights, justice, and unity in the community. They commended the city for celebrating the day and keeping the legacy of Thomas Mundy Peterson alive.

A tribute song was also performed by a Cyndi Bell-Pickney of Cathedral International, dedicated to the memory of Thomas Mundy Peterson and his contributions to society. The song was an emotional and moving rendition that resonated with the audience, who joined in singing and clapping along.

The day's events concluded with a wreath dedication in honor of Thomas Mundy Peterson at his gravesite located in St. Peter Episcopal Churchyard, on 188 Rector Street.
Mayor Helmin J. Caba, accompanied by the descendants of Thomas Mundy Peterson and Dorothy Carty-Daniel, laid the wreath, symbolizing the city's commitment to preserving the memory of this great American hero.

"The celebration of Thomas Mundy Peterson Day is a reminder of the struggles and sacrifices made by those who came before us to secure equal rights and justice for all," said Mayor Helmin J. Caba. "We are proud to honor the legacy of Thomas Mundy Peterson and his contributions to our nation's history. We remain committed to upholding his values and ensuring that Perth Amboy continues to be a beacon of hope and progress for all."

“Perth Amboy has a rich history of becoming a progressive community, said John Kerry Dyke, City Historian. This City transformed itself from a major 18th Century Slave Port into a 19th Century major station of the Underground Railroad.    And this mindset is evident by the support Thomas Mundy Peterson received from his fellow Perth Amboyans.  In addition, TMP was very brave to walk into Perth Amboy City Hall and cast his ballot. While other communities practiced voting disenfranchisement, the City Of Perth Amboy encouraged voting rights, and the City honored TMP with a gold medal.   Since then and till this very day, we celebrate March 31, 1870, in our great City.”

"It was a special time to be able to honor the first black American to vote, said Senator Joseph F. Vitale.  “Before millions of other black Americans could vote, there had to be the first one, and he was it. During a difficult time in our nation's history, he was heroic and blazed the trail for many others after him.”

“Thomas Mundy Peterson advanced the cause of liberty and made history in Perth Amboy, said, NJ Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. “ As voting rights are under assault across our country, we must honor his legacy and defend the constitutional right he first exercised here over 150 years ago. I’m grateful the City has continued to commemorate this moment in American history with the reverence and respect it deserves.”

“Today we honored the legacy of Thomas Mundy Peterson, the man who paved the way for the rest of us,” said Juanita C. Wooten, Ed.D, a descendant of Thomas Mundy Peterson. “Thomas Henry Mundy Peterson was my maternal great-grandfather’s uncle. He was my grandmother’s great-uncle, my mother’s great- great uncle, and my great-great-great uncle. As you can see – he was a GREAT man in many ways!! As we reflect on this day, let us remember that this is an important moment in African American history, not only for my family but for all of us. I challenge you today to think about Thomas Mundy Peterson every election day. Show up, vote, and then hold your elected officials accountable. We must continue along the path that TMP started, and no matter how hard life gets, we must never give up”.

 “As Frederick Douglass quoted, ‘theirs no progress without struggle’, said Victor Marshall.  “Today's celebration of Thomas Mundy Peterson exemplified those words that we have bumps in the road but must continue our struggle to gain progress. What a historical event that the city of Perth Amboy made happen. Thank you for allowing Marshall Hand and Drum to honor the ancestor Thomas Mundy Peterson.”